Saturday, February 13, 2016

QuiltCon 2016 Magazine

The digital edition of QuiltCon 2016 Magazine is now available, and my article "Sweepins': The Rise of Improvisational Quiltmaking in America" is included. The four-page feature article discusses the history of the improvisational style in American quiltmaking, while celebrating the appearance of Gwen Marston as Keynote Speaker at QuiltCon 2016.

Gwen loves old quilts! Sisters, Oregon, 2012 (photo by Kristin Shields)
I met Gwen in 2012 at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Shortly after the event, a fellow member of the Northwest Quilters offered me her spot in Gwen's Liberated Medallion workshop and Folk Art Quilting Retreat with Gwen and Sue Spargo in the Fall. So, I went.

Center Star, 2013, quilted by Tomme Fent
In the workshop, I started a small, improvisational quilt called "Center Star" - inspired by the famous Center Star quilt in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum and done in Gwen's liberated style. At one point, I was having trouble with my Featherweight, so Gwen reached underneath and pulled out a silver-dollar sized piece of lint from under the bobbin. "Maybe you should get the machine serviced," she said slyly, holding up the piece of lint. We laughed.

"Wild-Eyed Susans" 2013
In Sisters, I also began work on a wool quilt, "Wild-Eyed Susans" during the Folk Art Quilting Retreat. Both projects were finished within the year, exhibited, and published. The wool quilt even received an award in my first judged show, the Pacific West Quilt Show.

Nine Patch quilt top, New York, c. 1830
Improvisational style seems like a recent trend in quiltmaking, but the roots of improvisational style run deep. The article discusses the rise of improvisational quiltmaking, from the early 19th century "make-do" patchwork to the scrap quilts made of cutaway fabrics from the garment industry.

Prior to the turn of the 19th century, American bedcovers were elegant wholecloth, applique and embroidered works. The less formal, scrap quilts came later, and coincided with the establishment of the textile and garment industries in America. The signature wedge-shaped patches came from cutaway scraps. Today, people take classes with teachers like Gwen, learning how work in an improvisational style replicating the cutaway shapes.

"Sweepins'" article featuring Kristin Shields' magnificent "Love in the Digital Age"
When I heard Gwen would be the Keynote Speaker at QuiltCon 2016, I thought it would be fun to write about the history of improvisational quilts for the magazine, and share the story of meeting Gwen. One of the other attendees in her workshop and retreat was Kristin Shields of Bend, Oregon. Kristin's magnificent "Love in the Digital Age" quilt is featured on the first page of the article. I got great quotes from Mandy Leins and Siobhan Furgurson, too.

"Center Star" - masterfully quilted by Tomme Fent
"Center Star" is part of the article. Gwen saw pictures back when the quilt was first completed, and she was so impressed she thought about having some of her own tops machine quilted. That was really something, considering her strong preference for hand quilting.

Quiltmania Magazine, France, 2013
Generation Q Magazine loved the quilt, publishing it twice. Quiltmania also published it, and it was on the invitation and gallery guide for the biennial men's exhibition at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in 2014, which was juried by Bill Gardner, Editor-in-Chief of Quilters Newsletter.

MANifestations 2014 invitation
I wanted Gwen to see the quilt in person, but being in the magazine is even better than being in the show. QuiltCon has good attendance. It's only up for a few days, though. More people will see the quilt in the magazine, where they can read about its connection to Gwen and its place in American improvisational quiltmaking tradition. To get the digital edition of QuiltCon 2016 Magazine, click here

Thursday, February 11, 2016

En Français

Lors de la visite de Nantes, je rencontré Pascale Berbonne, rédacteur en chef d'un magazine appelé Pratique du Patchwork. Elle m'a demandé si je voulais écrire un article sur les courtepointes de polyester, et elle est ici.

L'article est de six pages, et comprend plusieurs courtepointes jamais été publiés auparavant. Quand j'écrire sur les couettes, je cherche à montrer de nouvelles choses à chaque fois.

Merci Pascale! Ce fut un plaisir, et je l'espère, vos lecteurs apprécient l'article. Il était amusant à écrire, et je l'ai aimé prendre un nouveau regard sur la collection de polyester.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Arrival

This gorgeous thing arrived on my doorstep the other day. It came from an Etsy seller in Naperbille, Illinois. It is from the middle to late 1800s, my guess is c. 1870, and the maker and exact location of origin are unknown. It is all cotton, all solid color fabrics, and entirely stitched by hand. Dimensions are 78 X 100, a nice large size!

There are six complete blocks through the center, and 9 half-blocks around the edges. The pieced cornerstones are especially complex. Each has 33 pieces, and there are ten complete cornerstones including one in each corner of the border. There are more than 5,000 pieces in the quilt, including the appliqué.

Speaking of the appliqué, it is very unusual to see applique elements in this motif, which is most popularly known as New York Beauty even though that name was applied more than half a century after this quilt was made. Very few of these quilts have appliqué, so it was a special touch. I think it found a good home. 

Monday, February 8, 2016


The opening reception of "No Girls Allowed" was on Friday. It was the second time one of my quilts was part of the biennial men's exhibition, and my first time visiting the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

It was just an overnight trip, but it was comfortable. I stayed at the new Westin at Denver International Airport. It's really cool. Golden wasn't too far, and it was a gorgeous drive. There was snow on the ground but the roads were clear. The welcome sign in Golden was a stone's throw from the museum.

A friend who I've known since the early 1980s came to the reception. Before we met up, I went over to the museum to get oriented. The first people I met were Rod Daniel and Jim Carnevale, who were standing outside the museum. They traveled from their home in Placitas, New Mexico to be there.

Rod Daniel with his quilt, "Ain't That American!"
Rod's quilt, "Ain't That American!" is really more like a collaboration. Jim took the photograph, and Rod made the quilt using the image. In October, Jim and Rod will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They are two of the nicest people you'd ever meet, and they make a great creative team.

It went with the color of the "Wow Wall" (quilted by Jolene Knight)
My quilt was on the wall just inside the front door. The museum staff calls it the "Wow Wall" because it is the first thing you see when you go inside. It is visible from the street, even when the museum is closed.

Around the corner was the gift shop, where I was happy to find a stack of my books and the Pour l'Amour du Fil event bags for sale. Later this year, I will exhibit at the museum, so I am glad to know they will have these goodies on hand.

Jack Edson with his quilt, "Eakins, Flute Player"
Before the reception, we gathered at the museum's office, a large space connected to the museum's future galleries. It is a short drive away from their current location. We were recording segments for the audio tour, and when I arrived, several of the artists were already gathered around a large conference table with curator Irene Berry. It was great to meet everyone and hear their stories.

Jack Edson was there, and I have wanted to meet him since first seeing his work. Jack's quilts are inspired by classical art, and they stand out from all the other pixelated, patchwork portraiture I have seen. He came from upstate New York for the reception, and traveled with Bill Stearman, also part of the show. Bill came all the way from Ontario, Canada, and his quilt, "At Peace" was a show stopper-- simply beautiful!

"The Whole Thing" by Tim Latimer of Lansing, Michigan
One of the first quilts I saw in the gallery was a beautiful wholecloth stuffed work quilt by Tim Latimer of Lansing, Michigan. Tim was not at the reception, but everyone was talking about his remarkable hand-quilted masterpiece. When people first discover Tim's work, they are always amazed by the quality and surprised when they discover a man made the quilt.

"Did You Wash Your Beak?" by David Taylor of Steamboat Springs, Colorado was facing Tim's quilt, and was also a tour-de-force. David, Tim, and all the others are much better at sewing than I'll ever be, and I greatly admire their work.

"Sir Lancelot" by Richard Tims, Wichita Falls, Texas
Never before had I been to a quilt show that included works made by two generations of men. When I first saw the invitation for "No Girls Allowed" I wondered if there was an error. The names Ricky Tims and Richard Tims both appeared, but it was not a typo. It was a father-son duo! Richard, Ricky's father, pieced the beautiful, earthy "Sir Lancelot" top from patches cut by Ricky. It was one of the last quilt tops Richard made before he passed away in 2015.

Self Portrait by Ricky Tims, LaVeta, Colorado
The reception was very well attended, a packed house; and the museum staff and volunteers did a fine job hosting the festivities.

The main gallery before it was too packed to take photos
It filled up a lot after I took this photo

I wish I'd had more time in the gallery before the reception. It was hard to get pictures after the doors opened. The place was packed, and the quilts were stellar.

In the Groove by Leo Ransom, Sherman, Texas
Put a Ring On It by Michael Michaelski, Brooklyn, New York
After returning home, I noticed an interesting thread in one of the men's quilting groups on Facebook. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was recently digitized, and there was talk about how many male quilters got started making quilts around the time of the Names Project. My friend Collin posted the link.

one section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt
He made two panels for the AIDS Memorial Quilt back in the day, and eventually took up quiltmaking more seriously about a year ago. Several men in the Facebook group also made panels. Many men started making quilts because they were memorializing family and friends who died from the devastating disease, and that was an epiphany. People are drawn to quiltmaking for a wide variety of reasons.

"No Girls Allowed" is the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum's 13th biennial exhibition of quilts made by men is on display through April 26th. For more information, click here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Coming Soon

Coming soon: two quilts for the "New York Beauty" collection. I will be exhibiting quilts later this year, and thought it would be good to add a couple quilts to the collection. The first was made by Jim Brown of Bennington, Vermont. It is a dynamic, new New York Beauty in red, white, black and gray.

The second quilt is late 19th century, 1870s or 1880s, and includes a couple unusual elements. The appliqué buds between arcs are unusual, as are the sunflower cornerstones. Handsome colors, too. The gold color was probably another color originally, perhaps red or green. Here are a few more photos of both quilts.

Bennington Quilt Fest, Vermont, 3rd Place People's Choice

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lucky Sevens

Whenever I am in Maine, most often during the holidays, Mom and I love to go antique shopping. She's collected antiques longer than I've been alive and has a real knack for it. Her favorite things are white ironstone and demitasse-size sterling souvenir spoons. She also has a good feel for quilts. I may have had something to do with that.

Last month when I was in Maine, Mom and I went to the Cabot Mill to look at antiques. The mill has a large, group co-op with many sellers, and there is always something interesting to be found. We saw a taxidermy trophy squirrel with front and back ends mounted on separate wooden plaques, but left that item behind.

There was a handsome Fans quilt, toward the back draped over a partition of some sort. Mostly wools, the quilt appeared to be from the early part of the 20th century. It had good colors, nice decorative feather stitching, and was in good condition. It wasn't the $25 bargain we all hope for, but it was reasonable, affordable. We thought about it, left, and came back half an hour later to get it. I'm glad we did. It's a nice one!

The quilt is 73 inches square. It has seven rows of seven blocks, each with seven patches of colorful fabric making the fan shape. All those sevens, I think I'll call it Lucky Sevens! There are several really nice wool quilts in my collection, and this one fits in well with the group.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kalakoa: Dressed for Success

Vintage dress made by Kiyomi of Hawaii
In pre-contact Hawaii, garments were made out of a material called Kapa. Native Hawaiians created the material with bast fibers, or the inner bark of certain trees; using wood mallets to beat the bark into sheets of thin fabric after soaking it in water. Before contact, women would wear kapa wraps from the waist down and sometimes over the shoulders, but from the waist up they were often unclothed. Men wore kapa loincloths.    

Vintage dress made by Liberty of Hawaii, gift of Madge Ziegler
During the early 1800s, fabrics such as silk and cotton began to arrive in Hawaii through the trade ships and the whaling industry. Around the 1820s and 1830s, New England missionaries arrived, introducing garment making to the islands, both dressmaking and tailoring. Loose fitting dresses called "Mother Hubbards" were modified to fit larger frames, and as the style evolved, a dress-like undergarment called a muumuu eventually became an outer garment. Today a muumuu is considered to be a loose fitting dress that hangs from the shoulders, often made of bright, floral fabric or Polynesian prints.

Vintage muumuu made by Kiyomi of Hawaii
The wave of tourism following World War II fueled the industry producing muumuus. Iolani Sportswear, established in 1953, had its own women's line developed by Kiyomi Hirose, called Kiyomi of Hawaii. Two vintage pieces from Kiyomi of Hawaii are among the garments in "Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" now on display at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon.

The inclusion of the garments is a link to the garment industry, which produced the scraps found in the quilts. "Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" will be up through February. Latimer Quilt & Textile Center is located at 2105 Wilson River Loop in Tillamook, Oregon. If you are planning to visit, please make sure to inquire ahead of time about their winter hours. For more information, call 503-842-8622 or visit their website.